Raise your hand if you've ever witnessed a hamster spinning tirelessly on its wheel? And who hasn't encountered the widespread metaphor of the hamster wheel, applied to practically every facet of life? Well, it's a metaphor that has certainly gained significant traction, and I'm about to hop on that bandwagon to explore it further.
However, let's narrow our focus to instructional leaders.
What exactly is this hamster wheel?
For instructional leaders who find themselves caught on this metaphorical hamster wheel, the experience involves a continuous struggle to manage the demands of each passing minute, leaving them unable to make substantial progress. It's a relentless cycle where challenges seem to arise endlessly, including matters of significant importance that demand immediate attention. Surprisingly, even after addressing these crucial issues, leaders trapped on this wheel struggle to determine a way out.
Naturally, none of us aspire to be in that predicament, do we? The last thing anyone desires is to remain on the hamster wheel, watching other leaders confidently drive by in their buses, heading precisely in the direction you envision for your campus or teams. Rather, the goal is to take the reins of that bus and steer it confidently—a sentiment that brought you here to this article, I presume.
Let's delve into the sensation of being on this hamster wheel...
It's akin to déjà vu, where you can't help but think, "Wait a minute... haven't I been through this before?" It's like finding yourself in a real-life rendition of the movie "Groundhog Day." In this film, Bill Murray's character is trapped in a time loop, reliving the same day repeatedly until he makes the right choices. Similar themes have been explored in other movies, where the protagonist is stuck in a loop until they alter their decisions.
For instructional leaders caught on the hamster wheel, thoughts might arise such as, "We've done this professional development every semester—why haven't we made progress?" or "We already explained this concept; why are we still fielding questions?" Another common scenario is delivering an inspiring professional development session or team meeting where participants leave with (perceived) enthusiasm to apply their learning, only to revert to their old habits within days.
It's like hitting repeat, isn't it? Introduce a new initiative, gather momentum, encounter an obstacle, lose steam, face setbacks, experience frustration, and then start all over again.
At times, you might wonder if you're caught in a prank. Is there a hidden camera somewhere capturing your endless loop?
So, why does this relentless cycle persist?
There's a single word that encapsulates the answer—one word that holds the key to stepping off the hamster wheel and onto the bus.
Can you guess what that word is? I'm sure you can; I won't be unveiling any earth-shattering revelation. Yet, within this word lies the foundation that empowers successful instructional leaders to avoid the hamster wheel entirely.
Yes, that seven-letter word is: clarity.
Triumphant instructional leaders who have managed to board the bus have achieved clarity for their teams. They've unlocked the doors, ignited the engine, and put their foot on the accelerator, propelling their bus down a well-defined path. Everyone on board knows precisely where they're headed. While roadblocks might emerge, these leaders remain steadfast, refusing to get off the bus and return to the hamster wheel.
But there's more to it—ironically, clarity can be quite ambiguous in its own right.
We're well-acquainted with the feeling of having clarity—it radiates calmness and certainty, bringing things into sharp focus, even during uncomfortable or challenging times.
On the other hand, the absence of clarity can evoke fear and unease; it feels almost like chaos, something we instinctively shy away from.
However, the million-dollar question is: How do we attain the level of clarity that generates these feelings? It's somewhat easy to claim "clear is kind" and "create clarity" than to put these concepts into action.
The fundamental truth is that our team members can't follow us onto the bus if they don't know its destination. Consider those leaders who confine themselves to the hamster wheel, uttering statements like, "I can't believe we're still struggling with this issue—it's been a recurring topic in nearly every faculty meeting."
Now, let's apply the same idea to something specific. An instructional leader entrenched in the hamster wheel might say, "I can't believe we're still struggling with tier 1 instruction- I have been talking about improving tier 1 instruction for months." Right? And the same can be said for any other thing: student engagement, that new curriculum, non-negotiable instructional practices, etc. Stating these things that require people to get on the bus together in haphazard or flippant, vague ways isn't going to actually get them on the bus, nor will it get the bus moving. It's going to keep instructional leaders on the hamster wheel.
Accomplished instructional leaders, steering clear of the hamster wheel, cultivate clarity through intentional and strategic means—rejecting randomness or flippancy.
They methodically develop clarity through strategic processes, adopting a rhythm that facilitates clarity. They comprehend precisely how a lack of clarity impedes teacher capacity.
Whether consciously or not, these leaders consistently are doing these 6 things methodically and intentionally, to create clarity:
Without a doubt, your presence here signifies your eagerness to be that leader who purposefully engages in clarity work, staying resolutely off the hamster wheel.
Let me shoot it to you straight- this work is both challenging and extremely rewarding when done well.
And let me challenge you: Get OFF the hamster wheel and get ON the bus! #kidsdeserveit #teachersdeserveit #createclarity #buildcapacity
P.S. I'd love to visit with you about how to make the 6 steps to building clarity a reality! Let's do this work together!
Welcome! I am Casey Watts- Collaborative Leader and Culture Changer!